Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Action (Dynamic) Verbs x Stative Verbs

All verbs in English are classified as either stative or action verbs (also referred to as 'dynamic verbs'). Action verbs describe actions we take (things we do) or things that happen. Stative verbs refer to the way things 'are' - their appearance, state of being, smell, etc. The most important difference between stative and action verbs is that action verbs can be used in continuous tenses and stative verbs can not be used in continuous tenses.

For example:
Action Verbs
She's studying math with Tom at the moment. AND She studies math with Tom every Friday.
They've been working since seven o'clock this morning. AND They worked for two hours yesterday afternoon.
We'll be having a meeting when you arrive. AND We are going to meet next Friday.

Stative Verbs
The flowers smell lovely. NOT Those flowers are smelling lovely.
She heard him speak in Seattle yesterday afternoon. NOT She was hearing him speak in Seattle yesterday afternoon.
They'll love the concert tomorrow evening. NOT They'll be loving the concert tomorrow evening.

Common Stative Verbs
There are many more action verbs than stative verbs. Here is a list of some the most common stative verbs:
be - hate - like - love - need - belong - believe - cost - get - impress - know - reach - recognize - taste - think - understand

You may notice that some of these verbs can be used as action verbs with different meanings. For example, the verb 'to think' can either express an opinion, or the process of considering. In the first case, when 'think' expresses an opinion it is stative:

I think she should work harder on her math.
She thinks he is a fantastic singer.

'Think', however, can also express the process of considering something. In this case 'think' is an action verb:
They're thinking about buying a new house.
She's thinking of joining a health club.

Generally, stative verbs fall into four groups:
Verbs Showing Thought or Opinions
know - believe - understand - recognize

Verbs Showing Possession

have - own - belong - possess

Verbs Showing Senses
hear - smell - see - feel

Verbs Showing Emotion
love - hate - want - need

If you are unsure of whether a verb is an action verb or a stative verb ask yourself the following question:
Does this verb relate some sort of process or a state? If it relates a process, then the verb is an action verb. If it relates a state, the verb is a stative verb


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